Isle Heritage Festival boasts best of all cultures


POSTED: Sunday, August 02, 2009

In 2005, the second year that the Hawaii's World Heritage Festival was held in Hilo, a state Department of Health inspector came to Alice Moon, the event's founder and coordinator, to discuss a problem. He told her one group didn't have the proper equipment to keep the food they were selling warm enough to prevent it from spoiling, so he would probably have to close their booth.

The group had come from North Kohala, a two-hour drive away, and they didn't have a “;Hilo connection”; to assist them. When a worried Moon asked the inspector what could be done to avoid shutting down the fundraising activity they had worked so hard to organize, he suggested they borrow one of the steamers the Hawaiian group was using to cook laulau.

“;I ran over to ask the Hawaiians if they could help,”; Moon recalled. “;They said, 'Sure,' and within 10 minutes the inspector gave the other group his approval to continue operating. This is exactly what I had in mind for Hawaii's World Heritage Festival. No matter what our ethnic background, no matter what our differences, we kokua, we lend a hand whenever we can!”;

Moon, who is of English, Scottish, Irish, Norwegian, Swedish, French, German and Bohemian ancestry, was born in Champaign, Ill. She and her family moved to Hilo in 1960 when she was just 4 years old, so that's where she feels her roots are planted.

As a child, she attended many wonderful events presented by the diverse ethnic groups that comprise Hawaii's cosmopolitan population. Over the years, however, she noticed that most of those events were put on by and for the people of a specific group.





        » Place: Mooheau Bandstand and Park, near the intersection of Kamehameha Avenue and Mamo Street (across from the Hilo Farmers Market), downtown Hilo

» Date: Saturday, Aug. 15


» Time: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.


» Admission: Free


» Phone: 933-9772


» E-mail: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


» Web site: www.poshfestivals.com





        » 10 a.m.: Opening procession, welcome oli (chant) and presentation of flags

» 10:10 a.m.: Hawaii County Band


» 10:45 a.m.: Kahula o na Mamo o Moikeha (hula)


» 11:15 a.m.: University of Hawaii at Hilo Tupulaga o Samoa mo a Taeao (chants, dances and songs)


» 11:45 a.m.: Big Island Irish Step Sistahs (Irish step-dancing group)


» Noon : Peter Tam Hoy and his tai chi and qigong students


» 12:30 p.m.: Aikido of Hilo


» 1 p.m.: JIMA-Hawaii Island African Heritage Group (African drumming and dances)


» 1:30 p.m.: Big Island Filipino Community Council


» 2 p.m.: Stringamajig New England Contra Dance Band


» 2:30 p.m.: Slack-key guitar virtuoso Ben Kaili and Friends




“;For example,”; she said, “;the people who attended Filipino events were primarily Filipino; it was the same for the Chinese, Japanese, Okinawan, Korean, Portuguese and so on. I also saw that the traditions of those groups were dying with the elders because very few young people were interested in perpetuating them.”;

That realization, along with “;not-so-pleasant”; memories of racism when she was growing up, spurred Moon to create Hawaii's World Heritage Festival.

“;Even today there's racial tension in Hawaii, especially in our public schools, so I figured it was time to launch an event that invited all the peoples of Hawaii to share and celebrate their traditions in an atmosphere of love, peace and harmony,”; she said. “;They would plan and implement this festival together, which would lead to better understanding and appreciation of their culture, other cultures and each other.”;

Moon is thrilled to see her dream come true. Last year's festival spotlighted 19 groups representing more than 30 cultures, including those of Hawaii, Portugal, Ireland, Scotland, China, Japan, Okinawa, Samoa, Africa, Puerto Rico, Micronesia and the Philippines.

About 6,000 people enjoyed the groups' songs, dances, stories, food, products and arts and crafts. Moon expects attendance and participation in this year's sixth annual Hawaii's World Heritage Festival to be the same.

Set for Aug. 15, the festivities will begin with a flag procession featuring participants dressed in outfits and carrying flags that reflect their cultural identity. According to Moon, their attire doesn't have to be bound by the past; for instance, Hawaiians might wear malo (loincloths) and kikepa (sarongs) or the latest tropical fashions from renowned Hilo designer Sig Zane.

New this year is a Keiki Activity Tent where dances, crafts and storytelling will keep youngsters happily occupied for hours.

Also new is an art contest for Big Island kids age 5 through 13. “;They'll create a drawing that reflects their heritage and/or a peaceful community or family,”; Moon said. “;We'll display the winning artworks and award prizes at the festival.”;

She has encouraged schools throughout the island to participate. The entry deadline is Aug. 12, and interested teachers can call or e-mail her for more information (her phone number and e-mail address are listed in the sidebar).

Other festival highlights include nonstop entertainment and activities ranging from puppetry and tai chi to coconut frond weaving and make-and-take ikebana (flower arranging). The World Bazaar and Marketplace will offer an array of merchandise such as quilts, pillows, bags, clothing, wall hangings, greeting cards, paintings, woodworks, and jewelry incorporating glass, shells, seeds, jade, pearls and feathers.

Among the ono delights at the international food court will be Okinawan andagi (doughnuts), Mexican tacos, Thai spring rolls, Indian samosas (savory pastries) and Hawaiian plates piled with kalua pig, laulau, poi and haupia.

Although the current economic situation has necessitated across-the-board belt-tightening, Moon said, “;Now more than ever, we need to express our gratitude for what we have and not despair about what we don't have. Especially in these challenging times, we need to pull together as a community to ensure that our cultural traditions remain strong. Hawaii's World Heritage Festival is one way to accomplish that.”;

Visitors are welcome to witness firsthand the magic that happens when such an atmosphere of mutual respect and cooperation is nurtured. “;At the festival, they can experience many cultures in one day in one place,”; Moon said. “;By doing so, they hopefully will return to their homes with a broader worldview and deeper insight into the meaning of the word 'aloha.'”;


Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based freelance writer whose travel features for the Star-Bulletin have won multiple Society of American Travel Writers awards.